Spain’s Beautiful Basque Country
Highly Recommended - Tried and Tested
Discover Bilbao and San Sebastián
The Basque region, in north west Spain, is a fantastic destination. It offers a mix of verdant mountains, beautiful coastlines, cosmopolitan cities and historic towns and villages. But it is the Basque people, with their own language, and passionately proud of their culture and traditions that are distinct to that of their neighbours, who make this a special destination.
Bilbao has recently undergone major transformations. It features staggering architecture, the pearl of which is the Guggenheim museum. Artful and iconic, it captivates visitors. The city also boasts architectural gems from the past. The neo-baroque theatre is breathtaking and spectacular cathedrals litter the city. The art nouveau train station is also worth a visit, regardless of whether you’re taking a train!
The Best of the Basque Country
During this tour, we also explore San Sebastián with its alluring coastline and head into the hills to sample traditional Basque produce. Guernica, the historic home of the Basques, is sadly best know for its tragic past. The old buildings were lost and the town has been rebuilt, but the past remains in some fascinating museums dealing with the bombing. An indisputable highlight of this trip, and indeed the Basque region, is San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. This rocky islet is striking and beautiful beyond comprehension.
March - October 2022/2023
Suggested itinerary by coach
Travel to Spain
Travel to the Spain on the comfortable overnight sailing from Portsmouth to Santander. Perhaps enjoy a buffet meal onboard and settle into your cabin. The following day, continue to Bilbao, our base for the next five nights.
Today we explore Bilbao, once the industrial powerhouse of Spain’s north, it has undergone a major transformation in recent years. Today it is a thriving, bustling, cosmopolitan city, with architect Frank Gehry’s striking Guggenheim Museum Bilbao topping the list of must-see attractions. Wander the ‘Seven Streets’, the original medieval part of the Old Town. Perhaps take the funicular to the summit of Mount Arxanda for panoramic views over the city and nearby mountains, or see the city from a different perspective with a boat trip on the Nervión river. A guided walking tour can be arranged.
San Sebastián Sightseeing
We head east today to visit San Sebastián (Donostia in the Basque language). Compared to the cityscape of Bilbao, San Sebastián’s beautiful Playa de la Concha beach can come as quite a surprise. Wander through the lively old town, perhaps sampling ‘pintxos’, the region’s famous tapas-style dishes. There’s plenty to see: the fascinating Museo San Telmo, the city’s two cathedrals, and the beautiful beach! If time permits, travel the half hour or so up the coast to Hondarribia, an absolutely charming little hilltop town where you can look down on France, just across the river.
Guernica and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
This morning we travel inland to pay a short visit to Guernica. The town is sadly best known due to its aerial bombardment in 1937 by Hitler’s forces as part of the Spanish Civil War. It was subsequently immortalised in the famous painting by Picasso. The town was the ancient seat of Basque democracy; the Basque parliament met beneath the branches of a sacred oak tree from medieval times until 1876. The stump of the tree remains. We then travel to the coast and visit the islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. The hermitage, connected to the mainland by a winding footbridge, is one of the best known and most iconic sights of the whole Basque Country. It will also be familiar to viewers of the TV series ‘Game of Thrones’ where it features as the entrance to ‘Dragonstone’.
At leisure in Bilbao or Txakoli Wine and Sagardoa Cider Tasting
Enjoy a day at leisure to discover more of Bilbao and its many museums and historic streets. Alternatively, why not head into the Basque hills to sample some excellent local produce? Visit a Sagardotegi cider house to try the local cider and traditional fayre – enjoy bacalao (cod) omelette, txuleton steak, Idiazabel cheese and Membrillo quince jelly. Txakoli, a slightly-sparkling fruity white wine is synonymous with the Basque Country and no visit to the area is truly complete without a glass!
Return to the UK
We depart from Bilbao for Santander and time permitting, enjoy some time in the city. We say goodbye to Spain, boarding the return overnight ferry back to the UK.
Add additional days and explore Biarritz and St Jean-de-Luz in the French Basque Country or head inland to Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Spanish Basque Country.
Hotel Ilunion, Bilbao ***
The hotel is close to San Mamés bus and metro stations. There is a lounge, gym and free WiFi. The modern air-conditioned rooms have a minibar, flat-screen TV and hairdryer. Coach parking available locally for a fee.
Barceló Occidental, Bilbao ****
Located close to the city’s Basilica de Bagoña, the hotel has excellent transport connections. Recently renovated, its large airy rooms feature a TV, air conditioning, safe, tea/coffee making facilities, all with exterior views. The restaurant offers lunch and dinner, there’s also a bar with great views over the city and mini-market for snacks. The hotel offers a fitness centre, spa, sauna, indoor (payable) and outdoor (open seasonally) and meeting rooms. Free Wi-Fi available. Free Overnight coach parking available 500m away.
NH Collection Aranzazu, San Sebastián ****
Located close to San Sebastián’s Ondareta Beach, it’s a 15 min scenic walk along La Concha Bay to the Old Town. The hotel’s 150 air-conditioned rooms feature a modern design and furniture, safe, minibar, television and Nepresso machine. The hotel also offers a bar, restaurant, terrace, gym and meeting centre. Coach parking available locally for a fee.
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|Dates||Half Twin||Single supplement|
|September 2022||From £475.00 per person||From £259.00 per person|
|March – October 2023||From £485.00 per person||From £265.00 per person|